APS News

Legal, Financial Issues Impact APS Name Change Decision

At its September 24 meeting, the APS Executive Board grappled with the issue of whether or not to recommend changing the name of APS to the American Physics Society.

As reported in the August/ September APS News, that issue had been the subject of an informal email survey sent out to the entire APS membership, in which 23.9% of those who were asked for an opinion responded. Of these, 51.3% were strongly in favor of the name change, primarily because the word “physical” does not clearly connote physics, and thereby limits the effectiveness of APS in its lobbying and public outreach activities.

But 11.5% of the respondents were strongly opposed, many because the word “physical” was broader than “physics”, and therefore helped APS include among its members those working in interdisciplinary areas.

In addition, 24.1% of those participating were moderately in favor of the name change, and 6.5% were moderately opposed. The remaining 6.6% were neutral.

At the September meeting, the Board heard expert opinion on sobering legal and trademark issues. Changing the name legally would require re-incorporation of the Society, and potentially renegotiation of many contracts, and reregistering APS as the publisher of the Physical Review in numerous international jurisdictions. If the name were not changed legally, but APS merely chose to do business under the name American Physics Society, APS could still lose the trademark rights to “American Physical Society”, which would be potentially damaging especially in the area of journal publication. The Board considered using both names, depending on the context, but concluded (as did most of the respondents in the survey) that it would probably be too complicated and confusing.

Finally, the Board considered retaining the name American Physical Society, but adopting a changed logo that would emphasize the word “physics”, and perhaps also a tag line that would make it clear that the business of APS is physics. In addition, the Board took action to discover whether the name “American Physics Society” was available to be registered as a trademark, thereby keeping the option of using that name for selected purposes in the future. It is expected that the Board will take up the name change and related issues again at its next meeting on November 19, and the matter may also be brought to Council the following day.


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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff